advice on baptism with very reluctant husband/father

Hello, I need some advice about a delicate issue: the potential baptism of my 5-month old daughter. I was baptized and raised Catholic (first communion, confirmation, attended church almost every Sunday, etc.). I stopped attending church when I got to college, and I now only go to Mass, with my whole extended family, on the occasional Christmas eve and Easter when I’m visiting my hometown‎.*

My husband is an agnostic/borderline atheist who was ‎raised without any form of religion (his family is very anti-religion). In fact, no one in his family has been baptized for over 100 years. Since I wasn’t really practicing, and didn’t really even know if I believed in God, I was totally fine with this. We were married in a civil, secular ceremony. My very Catholic mother and her family made a few comments, but it was totally fine in the end. My mom did ask my husband if he was willing to do a church wedding, but he flatly refused. I didn’t really care either way, and certainly didn’t want my husband to feel uncomfortable on our wedding day! One of his many reasons for refusing my mom’s request was that I, as the nominally Catholic parent, would have had to promise to do everything I could to raise our future kids Catholic, and that idea horrified my husband.*

Fast forward a few years, and we just had our first child, a girl! When I was pregnant, my mom asked if their would be a baptism, and I just chuckled and said “very unlikely, mom”. I told my husband about this conversation, and I assured him that I was not actually contemplating a Catholic baptism and taking our child to church. At the time, I thought that baptism and church just weren’t things that well educated, liberal, professional people did!

Then the baby was born. She is so sweet and innocent, and something deep inside me (maybe just from my childhood) starting tugging at me and made me want to get her baptized. Maybe its some residual fear of hell for the baby, but I just wanted her to be recognized by God. I tried to ignore and suppress these feelings for months, hoping they would just go away. But they didn’t; in fact, they grew stronger.

So I told my husband about my feelings and asked him if he would be OK with baptizing our daughter. He got very sad and upset, and he felt betrayed. I get where he is coming from, I really do! I married him fully accepting his views on religion, and I promised him that there wouldn’t be any baptism. I’m the one changing my mind here, and I get why he feels annoyed. He is a really great guy, brilliant lawyer, and we are very happy in our marriage. So because he is such a good guy, he agreed to think about it and not rule it out totally.*

I can tell he is really uncomfortable with the whole idea, and he said that once a person is baptized Catholic they become subject to Church Law for the rest of their life, and can never get out – even if they refuse to be confirmed. He thinks that signing a kid up to be bound to those rules without their consent as an infant is basically equivalent to child abuse. Is there anything I can say to alleviate his concerns? Maybe I can promise him that our daughter would only go to church on Christmas eve and Easter (and only if we were with my family, not his obviously), and that she wouldn’t do first communion? It’s not like I would want our daughter to have a “strict” Catholic upbrining like mine anyway.*

I know, based on some of the other answers here, that some people say that “your relationship with God and the Church is more important than your relationship with your husband”. I absolutely do NOT believe that, and I would never, ever force the issue if my husband truly objected. But I do think a little part of me would be disappointed if my daughter wasn’t baptized like I was, if only for the “cultural” aspects of being Catholic with my whole family, and because I know how incredibly happy it would make my mother. Anyone else navigated this issue? Any advice, either for me or for my husband? (oh and don’t worry about the local priest church refusing to baptize on the ground of “no founded hope”…my family is fairly prominent in the local church in my hometown, and the priests there would never ever refuse to baptize a kid from my extended family…in fact, the priest even offered all these concessions to my husband to try to induce him to agree…i.e, he wouldn’t have to be there for the baptism, he wouldn’t have to attend the class, they would take his name off the baptismal certificate etc).*

Thanks a lot for any advice!

I really encourage you to talk to your local Catholic pastor or the pastor of your childhood parish. This is not something to be sorted out on the Internet with strangers.

He is correct,

Again,this is where I urge you to sit down and talk through your feelings and process your thoughts with your local pastor.

In order to baptize an infant, the pastor must have a well founded hope the child will be educated and raised in the Catholic faith. What you describe does not indicate you intend to do that.

That isn’t what baptism is about. I can understand your draw to the familiar things of your childhood, but it would be good to discuss the sacrament of baptism with your pastor.

I am unsure why the pastor would do as you describe above, perhaps he believes your parents will educate and take the child to mass? That does happen-- grandparents undertake the religious education and make sure the child goes to mass weekly and the pastor baptizes the child on that basis.

So I suggest you talk to that pastor and lay out that you have no intention of taking the child to mass, raising her in the faith, or ensuring she receives the sacraments. I suggest telling the pastor the truth, not lying or relying on the prominence of your family.

Your husband is right. You shouldn’t baptize her unless you plan to raise her Catholic.


Make an appointment and have that heart to heart conversation with a priest. It wouldn’t be fair to your daughter to have her baptized with no intention of teaching her the faith to which you have bound her.


My prayer for you is that your husband, child, and you will be open to a family that God sends to witness to you. All one has to do is read your post and see how much you and your husband love each other and how much you both pour your love into your child. I have always find it so strange how those outside the family of God react aggressively to an occasion like this one. You are only desiring love for your child.

I was taken a bit off guard that your husband argued a position found in some two bit Jack Chick tract or Southern Baptist preacher on the topic, “You can never leave” or “They will have you for life”. He knows you and loves you. You it would seem are a prime example that that is simply not true. God does not force his love on you, and neither does the Church. What he may have difficulty is reconciling is how there are so many people who make life choices to attend Church and participate in Church when he sees so little value. I assure you it is not the Church demanding this, but the Christian who desires to spend time with his/her supreme lover God Himself. St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest with the Oh Lord,”.

About the idea that Baptism is being forced on someone. Just stop and take a step back. Would you “force” first grade on a child? Would you force your child to study and take English and Math classes? Is that how this should be properly framed. You know that healthy living and diet are good, and that education is good, so you will see to it that you are the best parents possible and provide good things to your child. This is not “forcing” them. In an even better example how could one see it as forcing a child to be baptized. You are seeing to it that your child has been incorporated into the family of God. You are “forcing” into a loving relationship. No forcing just does not fit.

To end in a light note. Will you ever allow your child to have ice cream? What is the scientific reason for allowing such a thing to take place? I imagine your husband may put ice cream and religion, as far at worth, or the same shelf. Ice cream is sweet and taste good, but the Lord taste even sweeter and desires to commune with you and your family. The Church is the city set upon the hill, and its teachings are not nefarious and hidden, but open for examination. You can study what the Church teaches even if you are outside the Church and there is not a body of doctrine that you will receive only if you step inside the Church. Examine why are you here. Is it only to live a short while and die? Is it because you were made for reason and God does have a plan for you, your husband, and your daughter.

Well. Um.

Let me think about this for a second.

Baptizing would be a happy thing for your extended family, sure. But that’s about all it’ll be.

Because if you don’t plan to raise your girl with any of the Catholic backing that makes the baptism matter? It’s not gonna really help her get closer to God anyway.

And if God’s riding in the back seat during your marriage the whole way through? Eh. Why bother?

Until this is important enough to actually live out? There’s no point in going piecemeal here. It’s not really helping anyone in a real way. It’s basically just checking off a box in your mind. But that’s about it.

Hope that makes sense?



You don’t baptize someone to make the family happy.
You baptize her to wash away the stain of ORIGINAL SIN.
What brand of Christianity is immaterial. Have a nice Inoffensive Presbyterian do it. It counts.

She is free to live by Christian principals or not. Either way she will be saved.

If your husband is an atheist why does it bother him so much that his daughter is sprinkled with water or not? It matters not one whit if it’s all a lie.
However, it DOES matter if it’s the truth.
Pascal’s wager…

I didn’t have my children baptized because the father objected.
My daughter died in an accident when she was 6. Thankfully still an innocent. She is in heaven.
My son is now a young man, and has refused to even look at the possibility of the reality of the Christian faith. He is a man of these modern times, and so far I have not been able to sway him. He thinks he knows what Christanity and Catholicism are all about: myths we tell ourselves to make us feel better. Opium. Fairy tales. Ignorance. So I pray.

I did not know I could have had them baptized without the father’s consent. If I had, I would have done it. One of the biggest regrets of my life.
I pray God doesn’t punish my son for my stupidity.

Maybe your intuition is her (and your) guardian angel giving you a shove.
Do you have ears to hear?

OP, it seems that you have a familial, cultural, social idea of what Catholicism is. Do you know intellectually what it means to be a Catholic Christian? Have you ever read the Catechism of the Catholic Church?

As a Catholic convert, I didn’t have to be “re-baptised” when I entered the Catholic Church, as I had been baptised in the Church of England when I was a baby. I had to be “re-confirmed”, but that’s another matter for much later in life.

If your husband would feel more comfortable with a non-Catholic Christian baptism, perhaps he might consider that? If your daughter wants to move towards the Catholic faith when she is old enough to understand, that will then be her decision.

I think your husband and you will need to do some more reflection and could possibly benefit for marital counselling. It is very likely that you will continue to run into problems if he continues to have such a disdain and aversion towards your parents’ faith and your family heritage. After all, out of all women in the world that he could have married, he chose you, so obviously your parents must have done something right with your Catholic upbringing, no? I would encourage both of your to talk with both a priest, and a marriage counsellor. Now you have the desire to baptize your child that you did not think you would have. Maybe as she grows you will have the desire to pray with her and teach her about the faith, and who knows in 7 years you might want First Communion for her. Your husband needs to accept the whole of you, with your upbringing and heritage that may surface as you get older and as the Lord may be calling you back, and also that half of his daughter’s ancestry is Catholic and so there is always the possibility that the heritage will be transmitted to her.

I’m not sure where to start.

I can understand why your husband is reluctant. I would agree with him for very different reasons though.

While baptism is good for your child’s soul, it is not good that you would make her a Christian through baptism and then intend to provide no further moral training in Christianity. As a Catholic you would oblige her to attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of obligation. A Catholic who knowingly and willfully skips Mass is in a state of mortal sin. That cuts them off from receiving the Eucharist and puts them in jeopardy of Hell. This isn’t a problem if you intend to take her yourself and to catechize her in the Faith, but that does not sound like your intent. It’s a little like strapping a parachute to her back and throwing her out of a plane without any idea how to use the parachute. She might have the tools for salvation, but it means nothing if she is unaware of how they can keep her from dying.

Baptism and occasionally going to Mass are not cultural things you simply do to make someone feel good. Baptism has rewards in the spiritual life, but also includes obligations. Catholics have further obligations to the law (marriage in the Church is one of them). These aren’t simply things that are nice to do, but are obligations owed to God.

Please talk to your pastor and explain exactly what you mention here. I do not know what he would do, but I suspect he would have grave concerns about baptizing your daughter when you do not appear to have an intent to raise her in the Faith. If he does it simply because your family is prominent then that in itself is problematic.

My apologies if this sounds harsh, but it seems that you are lacking some very fundamental understanding of what baptism entails.

Baptism is te first sacrament of initiation to the church, not the only one. The purpose of baprism you already know…

As for being bound to church law–you child will make this decision for themselves when they are at the age of confirmation, another sacrament of initiation…your child cannot make a balanced decision on this unless they are actually exposed to the Catholic church. To not expose a child before this time is neglectful and one sided.

You husband is not being asked to change a religion either, so there should not be a conflict -he should do things to make you happy too, instead of being stubborn about something that should not matter to him one way or another.

Well stated. If you were seeking medical advice, you’d seek out a good physician.
Education? A well known educator.
For this, you a priest. Go, talk to him. In the meantime, pick up a copy of the catechism. Parents need this when the questions start coming from their children, as well as for your own understanding of what the Church really teaches, not what some people think it teaches.
Best wishes.

You are worried that God won’t recognize her if she is not baptized??!!


I was overwhelmed when I came to this part. I feel deeply for you in what you are trying to express here.

I will not give you any advice. I do not think I can do that that will be of anything new or significant for you.

Aware that there can be differences in the level of belief and spirituality, I don’t want to come strongly or impose on you what you do not believe or do not want to believe.

I am sure you are aware that by posting in this forum, you would get religious opinion from posters here which may be different from yours. If anything at all, what I will be saying will be on that basis.

I think you care about Christianity and your own baptism means lots to you to an extent you may not realize. Had you married a Catholic, your life now may have taken a different direction in that you would be a religiously devoted wife and mother. That is not to say that your present life is any less of a choice.

The greatest gift that a parent can give to her child is God. In Catholicism, we initially do that by baptizing her. Similarly, depriving her of this privilege would be equally a big disservice for her. So to me, that would be my priority for my children, to plant the seed in them.

I feel there is a longing for you to do that which you so admitted yourself. The seed of God was planted in you in your Baptism. Regardless of what you are doing or believing now, God being a faithful God, would perhaps nudge you in the subtlety of your heart that He is indeed present. That your child is His gift for you, for without His consent, she would not have come into this world.

That longing manifests in your thought where you see the need for your lovely daughter, now that you have one of your own, to satisfy the requirement of the Creator God, as you said so yourself, that she will be recognized by Him (in Baptism).

Unfortunately, your present situation poses difficulty for that to happen.

I believe in the power of prayer. In prayer, we do not depend on ourselves but totally dependent on God. You can pray, include your desire in your prayer, and see for yourself, whether God will listen to you or not.

I will include you and your family in my prayers, wherever you are, and petition to God that He may bless all of you in ways that is understandable to you.



Hi, its the OP here! Thanks very much to everyone who took the time to read my initial post and comment! I wanted to write an update and let everyone know how the situation ended up getting resolved.

So my husband and I had another conversation. He was willing to compromise on having some type of baptism, but was adamant that it not be in the Catholic Church. He reasoned that a Catholic baptism announces to the world that the parents intend for (or at least hope) their child to adhere to a set of values and rules (belief in god, no contraception, no support for basic human rights like marriage equality, going to mass, etc), and that it is wrong to impose such values and rules on a child before they know whether the child actually wants those values and beliefs. After listening to his case, I realized that I agreed with him. Imposing Catholicism on a child is not like requiring a child to go to school, or to learn to read, or to avoid running out in the street. Those things are basic and universal. Religion is not basic, or universal. It is not a condition of participation in society, but rather is deeply individual and should be made by individuals of sound age and mind. So we agreed together, no Catholic baptism. The key is this: if our daughter is baptized Catholic now, she can never become non-Catholic. If she is not baptized Catholic now, however, she can always become Catholic later, at an appropriate age (teenager or adult).

I still wanted some kind of cultural baptism ceremony, however, so we agreed to baptize our daughter ourselves in my parent’s backyard using the Trinitarian formula. That way, the Catholic church considers it a valid, Christian but non-Catholic baptism, and it does not bind our daughter to any rules or Cannon Law. It also placates my mother and her family, who get to still have a huge baptism party (which is what my mother really wanted after all). So we did that, and we thought it was a great compromise and end to a sticky and unpleasant situation. I would encourage other couples in our situation to do something similar, something that feels right for your family.

Thanks again! :slight_smile: peace!

Actually the Church only allows a baptism without a priest in extreme circumstances. Like immanent death at an accident scene.

No one can know what God thinks of a private, personal ceremony.

I honestly wouldn’t think it suffices for the removal of the stain of original sin.
Maybe others could chime in.

This sort of thing is not what I meant… I highly encourage you to have a pastor do it.
Otherwise your daughter is not baptized.
And she should not be told that she is. She might want to become a Christian as she gets older. She needs to know that she needs to be baptized properly.

According to the clear teaching of the Catholic Church, her daughter is baptized. We might not agree with how the family went about completing the baptism, but she has been baptized. The Church teaches that if anybody can perform a baptism. The person has to baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, water must flow on the head, and the person baptizing must intend to do what the Church does. (Little kids messing around in the backyard playing at baptism do not validly baptize. Parents who pour water over their child’s head who baptize in the name of the Holy Trinity do baptize. Even in a backyard or a swimming pool or a river or a lake. ) The person doing the baptism need not be a Christian or even any sort of believer.

Now, this situation is highly irregular. Chances are if the child later wants to become Catholic that a conditional baptism would be required, but maybe not. If witnesses are available (or better yet, a video) to verify the details of the baptism the church would accept such a baptism.

I had to look it up, but yes,
I stand corrected.

Please record this baptism somewhere. Create a record of it with date and names of witnesses, signatures would be good. If you have video, all the better.

If your daughter wants to join a church later in her life, she will need this information.

From your title, you tried to make it sound like the conflict was with your husband. If you don’t believe in what the Church teaches, I can only pray that the Holy Ghost turns your heart.

Congratulations on being a new mommy!

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