Baptism and choosing a christian name


I would like to know the Catholic teaching on choosing a Christian name for a child. This is something that has always puzzled many my country; that Catholics can’t be given names such as Abraham, Jesse or those names from the Old Testament, though I know catholic baptized Moses. Also that catholic cannot be Baptised Hope, peace, fortunate or Shirley.
I ask because just a couple of years ago I meet this young lady who has just completed her master’s degree (so she isn’t that young by now). She shared with me how she misses the Catholic church, how she used to enjoy going to church with her parents and older brothers when she was a child. What happened is, when the time for her baptism came, her parent chose the name Shirley Christine, and the priest refused to baptize her Shirley. She says her father then said” but you have Christine”, but the priest refused. I have seen such exchanges happen in front of the Alter, and it is not funny at all. Now, because her father loved the name so much, he was so angered and decided to take her and her younger brother who were to be baptized that day, and got them baptized in the protestant church. That’s how the two of them ended up there.
From the look of thing, the man must have even stopped going to since then church; he even talks negatively about church. The good news though is that this coming month, her parents will be wedding, in the Catholic Church.
I feel sorry for this young lady, but for sure I don’t know how to help her, because she was raised in different church, and so she knows nothing completely about the Catholic Church.


I don’t know how long ago your friend’s experience was, but for about the last 50 years the Church has not been insisting on saint names for baptized babies in USA. It’s possible that a particular priest, especially an elderly or traditional priest, might still make a big deal out of it, but I see kids with all kinds of wack names being baptized since I was a kid myself.

They probably wouldn’t baptize a child named Lucifer or Hitler or something really awful, but Jennifer or Jesse would be fine.

I think the “must have saint name” rule was prior to Vatican II. I know my mom would tell me when I wanted to change my name to Sandy or Linda because I thought those names were prettier, “You can’t because there’s no St Linda or St. Sandy,” but that was back in 1970.


GREAT article:


She is about 30yrs.


My second child is baptized Scott Aaron. No saint name there, and in fact, a name from the old testament. Lots of Catholics, even in the old days, were baptized with names from the Old Testament: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ruth, Sarah, etc.

I think it’s sad that one priest’s misguided dictate made her lose her faith.


I know 30 years ago my mother had an argument with a Catholic cemetery who didn’t want my father’s given, legal name on his tombstone because it wasn’t a saint’s name. Dad’s parents were Protestants and he wasn’t baptized a Catholic till he was 37 years old. Mom finally won the argument. But babies were getting baptized with names like Madison even then.


Aside from the Old Testament, you have:

While there may not be a St. Scott on the Calendar, that does not mean there are not any Scotts in heaven :slight_smile:

And look here, Scott could be for any of these:


Aye, lassie, well stated. :slight_smile:


Certainly they can. I think you are operating under some mistaken ideas.

Again, you are mistaken.

A). Nothing wrong with Shirley
B). Christine is a saint name
C). This has nothing to do with Church teaching but a priest who was mistaken— maybe due to some cultural or language barrier, or lack in his training.


There is no rule anywhere that I’ve ever heard that forbids giving a Catholic baby any of the names you listed.


of course Catholics can name their children after Old Testament figures. and can name a baby hope, or shirley or fortunate


That’s a terrible reason to leave the Holy Church.


My first name is not a saints name.


It is indeed.


To the best of my knowledge, I have never heard of Catholics being told only to use Christian names.
The main thing is that a child is Baptized into the Church, whatever his or her names is.


My guess is there was much more to that story.


I remember that on another thread you told us you’re in Uganda. Here is the website for your national Catholic bishops’ conference:

Through this webiste you ought be able check whether there’s any truth in what the priest told you about baptismal names. In most countries, as far as I’m aware, the old restrictions have either been formally abolished or quietly allowed to lapse. I would imagine that is probably true for Uganda as well, but you’re in a better postiion than we are to make sure about that.


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