Baptism for grandchild

My son and his wife have a 6 month old daughter who has not yet been baptized. Unfortunately, I don’t see baptism happening in the near future since they aren’t registered in a parish and don’t attend mass. I’m wondering if my husband and I can baptize her in secret sometime when we are babysitting? What is the Church’s stance on this? How would we do it? And then what would happen if down the road, they decided to have her baptized at church?

Unless there is immediate danger of death, you should not baptize the child “in secret.”

This might help:

Talk with your priest about it. How likely is it that your granddaughter would be raised in the Catholic faith?

This might be an instance where you must simply trust in God’s plan for your children and grandchildren. After all, He knew what He was doing when he gave her to her parents!

Keep them in your prayers. Hopefully as the girl gets older, her parents will develop more interest in her religious upbringing, and come back to the Church. But going behind their backs (well-meaning though you may be) is not going to facilitate that happening, and may cause more problems than anything.

The Church forbids this except in cases of medical emergency. The reason is that if the baby is bound to the laws of the Church through Baptism, but the parents are not raising her in the faith, then it will be impossible for her to keep her Baptismal vows.

It is far better never to make a vow to God, than to break it, even unwittingly.

Why on earth would you want to baptize a baby in secret? If the parents do not wish the child to get baptized your options do NOT include usurping the authority of the parents of the child. I understand your concern and wanting your grandchild to receive the sacraments, but let me just tell you that going about this way will not open doors to bringing your son and or his family back into the church, the opposite would happen. If you cross that line you have destroyed trust and told your son and his wife that not only do you not respect their authority to raise their children but that you cannot be trusted to respect boundaries.

Now here are your options as I see them, have a series of conversations with your son, and his wife if you feel the relationship with her is strong enough to do so. DO NOT criticize, do NOT judge, do NOT attempt guilt or manipulation. Explain sincerely why you feel it important and why you would like them to give it serious consideration. Then you pray, you pray for the Holy Spirit to guide all aspects of their parenting including religious formation. You pray that their hearts be opened and they develop a true love, and honor of God and a desire to want to be a part of His Church. You pray this prayer for them (without throwing it in their face that your doing it). You support your son, you live your faith as an example not preach it with your words. Your prayer coupled with your respect and example will work miracles.

If anyone, grandparent or not had my child baptized into any faith behind my back and I ever found out about it, that person would never see my child unsupervised again. It would take a very long time for me to allow even supervised visits.

You might want to consider the risk before undermining the parents and violating their trust in such a huge way.

I feel your pain. I raised my 3 daughters in the Church. The only daughter who has had a child thus far, no longer professes the faith. However, she does allow me to take my granddaughter (who is now 5,) to Mass whenever I ask. My granddaughter has developed a love of Mary.

Two Easters ago before Mass, I dipped my fingers in the holy water, blessed my grandchild, and silently asked God to accept a grandmother’s desire that the child should be baptized and that in case of emergency, He would consider my sincere prayer on the child’s behalf.

It is hard when your children abandon the faith, but it helps to pray for them. I pray for all of my daughters and my granddaughter as well. For now, my daughter thinks that her child’s devotion to Mary is “cute.” But her devotion may be Our Lady’s way of sowing gentle seeds in both my daughter and granddaughter. Miracles do happen.

I totally agree with this. I think there is a bigger problem here. I wouldn’t be surprised if your DIL already avoids you because she thinks you don’t mind your business. Parents make 100% of the decisions regarding their kids and you need to respect that. Honestly, I am shocked you are even thinking like this


Because Baptism is essential for salvation, obviously.

Please, non-believers, spare us your wisdom and common sense, thanks.

You don’t even quite understand what Baptism is, and if you did, you wouldn’t believe in it anyways. We have known what it is with certainty for two thousand years.

Surely if it was a matter of a life-saving vaccination or other medical treatment, you’d speak differently, for I am sure even in your disbelief of an afterlife or a God you would still reject relativism as far as to concede that one should do all that is possible to keep the baby healthy and alive.

So please, if you have no better comment than it’s not a good idea, I would be soo mad, consider the risk, etc. there’s really no contribution coming through, just secular common sense that we are all well acquainted with. The OP wants to know what the position and teaching of Holy Church is on the matter, and that is what Catholics have tried to explain above.

I will only add that the matter should be discussed by them with their own priest, who can counsel them on how to bring the matter to the attention of their son.

I think that’s a bit harsh. What if someone baptized one of your infants in secret before you had the opportunity to have it done? What if your Protestant mother-in-law baptized your baby in the sink before his Catholic baptism? You only get one, you know, no matter how clandestine or inappropriate the circumstances.

I realize that the OP’s fear is that if she doesn’t do it herself, it will never get done. I’d be very disappointed, too, if one of my kids abandoned the Church. Having said that, it is not a third party’s place to confer the sacrament of baptism without the consent of the parents or an emergency where consent cannot be obtained. As a Catholic, I also would be furious if someone took it upon themselves to baptize one of my babies!

Well, then, how about if a believer comments?

The Church herself says that what the OP is proposing is allowed only in a life and death emergency. And this isn’t one.

Canon law says: §1 For an infant to be baptized lawfully it is required:

1° that the parents, or at least one of them, or the person who lawfully holds their place, give their consent;

This is not grandma’s decision to make. She made her decisions with her own children. Now it’s their responsibility.

As a Catholic.

As a Catholic, I do not need that other sort of “wisdom of disbelief”. That isn’t harsh, that is true. If I do not believe, I do not care if by my actions I am keeping someone from the ordinary means of justification and sanctification. The reasoning of disbelief that leads to refuse to baptize someone is equivalent to the reasoning of pseudo-Christian cult doctrines who lead people to refuse to receive blood transfusions, for instance. Both can lead to death, and we know that.

I do not agree to secret baptism, and I gather that neither does Holy Church approve of this practice, but the issue of my remark is that those comments reflect an anti-religious way of thought which sees baptism as a way to make someone a member of a religion, rather than to bring to someone’s soul the indelible mark of the justified and to infuse sanctifying grace.

As far as I know, the forum rules allow me to point that out without criticizing the users making the post. If it sounds uncharitable, I’ll remember to mention it in confession.

Different story. I answered above.

I do not support secret baptism personally, but regardless, I submit my personal judgment to the Church, who allows secret baptism in danger of death:

“An infant of Catholic parents or even of non-Catholic parents can be baptized licitly in danger of death even against the will of the parents” (Code of Canon Law 868 §2)

If the child cannot be officially baptised for whatever ‘reason’, pray to the Holy Family and the Divine Mercy for them to do it in their time and in their way.

God is nothing, if not merciful and understanding.

We all know the Church permits a quick lay baptism in a life-and-death emergency.

But really - how would you feel if your Lutheran mother-in-law baptised your child in the name of the trinity in her sink before his Catholic baptism because she didn’t view Catholic baptisms as valid? You do realize you would have to celebrate that sink baptism as the child’s one and only, right? There would be no Catholic baptism permitted after that? Why an athiest would care, I don’t know, if they believe it’s all baloney anyway… Maybe because it would still affect the child should he or she choose a religion as an adult?

I do understand the grandmother’s fear for the baby’s salvation, should he pass away before he or his parents chose baptism. But I think MOST parents would be infuriated if someone secretly baptized their kid, whether or not they were religious. And I think Anglewanabe is Catholic, for the record.

I’m siding with BEL and angelwanabe on this one.

While it is permitted by the Church for a layperson to baptize an infant in a life or death situation…this is not one of those situations.

Baptism is a one time event. Period. You are doing a serious disservice to this child by performing a baptism in secret.

You would have to say something anyway. Say the family converts to Catholicism…after this child has reached the age of reason. The family plans to to go to RCIA and receive the sacraments. Is this grandparent going to open up and admit to what they did? That baptism the grandparent performed would be the valid baptism any other subsequent baptism is not valid and wouldn’t wash away any sins done after the child has reached the age of reason.

What happens if the child converts when he/she is an adult…and is never made aware of this secret baptism?
All of those past sins are still on his plate…despite going through his own conversion and baptism.

This sort of happened to my husband. He wasn’t baptized secretly…but he was baptized in a Church and had no idea if his baptism was actually valid. His parents had no idea if he was baptized in the Trinitarian formula. They didn’t pay attention and couldn’t remember.
He wasn’t sure if his baptism into the Catholic Church was actually valid or not.

The good thing was he knew about this situation and went to confession anyway. The priest he confessed to actually said he had seen situations like this before.

If I was a non-believer…I would be absolutely livid if anyone baptized my child without my knowledge.
That is a serious violation of trust.
Like BEL said…visits with this relative would cease immediately and it would take a very long time for me to be comfortable with this family member to be around my child ever again.

My sister and BIL…as well as my husband’s sister and her husband are all non-practicing, baptized Catholics.
None of my nieces or nephews are baptized, in any Church. There are no plans for them to ever be baptized.

As much as I don’t like it…that is their decision as parents. You have to respect this decision. You aren’t the parent of the child…they are.
Therefore…this is not your decision to make.
I’ve taken one of my nieces to Mass once. She was staying at our house overnight and it was a holy day of obligation.
I called my SIL before my niece visited to explain the situation…seeing if she would be more comfortable sending her another day.
SIL said it was fine if we took her to Mass…so we did.

But only at the moment of death is it ever the only thing required for salvation. For the living, baptism is how we join the Church, and as members of the Church we come to salvation through total obedience to the laws of the Church, and by means of the reception of the Sacraments.

If a person gets baptized but then is not obedient, it is worse for them than if they had never been baptized.

Oh dear, I guess I’ll start at the top.

  1. I’m an atheist. The person who agreed with me is not.

  2. I’m well aware of what baptism is and have in fact been baptized myself.

  3. I’m not sure what vaccinations have to do with this but I will say that although I am very strongly pro-vaccination I would be against a grandparent having an infant vaccinated in secret against the will of the parents.

  4. The catholics can and should explain the church’s stance, but I also think that it’s important to consider that the OP could lose access to his grandchild and destroy his relationship with his son.

  5. Yeah, it is common sense that someone shouldn’t undermine parents like that. But as Voltaire said “Common sense is not so common”.

I would rejoice at her desire to have my child sealed with the indelible character of the justified and filled with the sanctifying grace and washed forth from the stain of original sin. Now, would I be upset at the arbitrary action that took place behind my back? Of course! :smiley: But I would perfectly understand her concern, because I know what the Sacrament of Baptism is - perhaps and probably even better than my Lutheran mother-in-law (in the example).

My whole point was to make a clear difference between a believer like you pointing out out of wisdom and prudence that it’s not a good idea to do this (not because of their personal opinion or feelings, but because that is what the Church teaches), and someone who doesn’t care about baptism or religion or God suggesting that it’s not a good idea because it would not feel nice or other such reasonings.

In Italy there is a (quite small) atheist movement that goes around exhorting people to not baptize infants and to send letters to have their baptismal record struck down under the excuse that they did not chose to be baptized. This harms infants of those lapsed Catholics who would have otherwise out of prudence still baptized their little ones, and it harms the very lapsed Catholics who by effectively asking this in writing are risking to be subject to a formal excommunication of apostasy. This is why I was a bit disturbed by the comments: I have heard similar remarks before, in militant contexts, and I am aware of the issues they carry on. We do not know why the parents of the child are not baptizing him if they are Catholic, but it is presumably for a related issue - obviously they do not know how important Baptism is for their little one, or they reject it due to some of those “common sense” ideas about forcing the child into a religion, et cetera.

I do apologize if I sound like I am stirring things up, not my intention at all. I do not approve of doing things secretly either, for it is not the way in which Christians act ordinarily. I just felt compelled to make a statement with no offense intended towards anybody, which is added to the very extensive list of things I will have to be held accountable for one day :o

All five points are very sound and reasonable, and I am, like I said, sorry if I came out a bit harsh, as someone said. I could say I was a bit tired and that old memories about other issues mentioned above came to mind, and that the best course of action would have been to bite my tongue and go get some rest, but I didn’t. I hope some of what I said is somewhat useful for someone.

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