In-laws baptized our children without permission

Hi, I didn’t think I’d be posting here again but something came up.

My wife’s parents are very devout Catholics and unfortunately sometimes they just take their faith overboard. My wife and I were raised in the church but for personal reasons we are no longer practicing which also includes not baptizing our children into the faith.

Since my wife began working again her parents offered to look after our three year old daughter and our two month old son during the times we both are at work. Our daughter is a very talkative three year old and once in one of her little rants she told us that “grandma and grandpa washed our hair”. At first I thought maybe they had just given them baths but after prying more information from her we knew they had baptized our kids. Needless to say, they are no longer looking after them and we will begin to strictly limit their visits to only supervised ones.

First of all, is this baptism valid according to the Catholic Church? I thought they needed to be performed by priests (and I’d like to burst their bubble and tell them it’s not). Also, did they do wrong according to the Catholic church? They feel as though they have done nothing wrong and instead they are"helping" get their grand kids to heaven. We had no problem letting them take our daughter to mass every so often but we both feel they haved crossed a line.

Yes. It is 100% valid. (this is presuming they used the proper form and matter, and if they are as devout as you say, I have no doubt they did baptize properly.)

No. The priest is the ordinary minister. But, anyone can baptize because it is such an important sacrament.

Sorry, I guess it is your bubble burst in that regard.

Yes. While valid, the baptism is illicit, i.e. not done according to the law.

I would encourage them to discuss what they did with their pastor. Perhaps he can point out where they overstepped their bounds and how they have now bound the children to Catholic canon law and requirements with very little way to ensure they are brought up in the faith. Also, they must report this baptism to the Catholic parish/pastor ASAP.

I’m sorry. Yes, they did cross a line. They broke canon law. Excepting when a child is in danger of death, not even a priest may licitly baptize a child without the consent of the child’s parents. I can’t say whether the baptism was valid, because I don’t know the form used. It possible for a layperson to validly baptize, but their action was illicit. They ought to have tried to convince you that you are responsible to have your children baptized, instead.

You can get a more thorough explanation than I can give at the Liturgy and Sacraments forum–they would know whether your child would need to seek a conditional baptism if he or she decides to join the Church–but I have appended the section of canon law that deals with it directly. You would do well to encourage them to confess what they did to their pastor, pointing them to this passage. Had they talked to their pastor first instead of taking matters into their own hands, they would have known not to do this. You might want to talk to him and have him sit down with them and with you and your wife, so they can get an explanation from someone they will trust to give them a reliable answer.

***Can. 867 §1. **Parents are obliged to take care that infants are baptized in the first few weeks; as soon as possible after the birth or even before it, they are to go to the pastor to request the sacrament for their child and to be prepared properly for it.

**§2. **An infant in danger of death is to be baptized without delay.

**Can. 868 §1. **For an infant to be baptized licitly:

1/ the parents or at least one of them or the person who legitimately takes their place must consent;

2/ there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion; if such hope is altogether lacking, the baptism is to be delayed according to the prescripts of particular law after the parents have been advised about the reason.

**§2. *An infant of Catholic parents or even of non-Catholic parents is baptized licitly in danger of death even against the will of the parents.

OP, **1ke **can answer your questions, so there is no need to repost elsewhere.

If the children choose to join the Church later in life, would they be baptized conditionally at that time, or is it desirable that the baptism be recorded now because the presumption will typically be made that the illicit baptism was valid? (Or is the answer something in-between?)

If the grandparents do as they are obligated to do and report the baptism to their pastor, the baptism would be properly recorded in the sacramental records. There would be no doubt about validity, as the pastor would interview them to ensure proper form and matter. And, they would not be “joining the Church”, as they are already Catholic by virtue of their baptism. They would be completing their sacraments of initiation.

If the baptism were never recorded properly and it was strictly anecdotal family lore that the children were baptized in the bathtub by grandma and grandpa, and grandma and grandpa were no longer around to sign an affidavit of baptism, then the priest would likely conduct a conditional baptism.

IOW, it ought not have been done without parental intent to raise them as Catholics, but now that it is done, it is better for the children to have it recorded. If they do not decide to complete their sacraments of initiation or marry in the Church, there is no difference whether it is recorded or not. If they do decide to do so, it will be better for them to have an accurate and indisputable record of it in place. (For instance, if they marry a Catholic, it would be clear that they do not need permission to marry in the Church, correct?)

For the record, what the grandparents did actually makes them bad catholics, not “overboard” catholics. They’ve reduced baptism to something akin to superstition!

Sacraments are not superstitions. We do not believe that we have the ability to manipulate God into doing our bidding. That’s what they tried to do.

Instead, sacraments are gifts of Grace from God to man. Baptism is open to children precisely under the condition that the children are understood to be raised in the faith. These people did the kids a grave injustice. They tried to force God to over-rule you as parents. It’s too bad people act under such little understanding of the faith.

Sorry you had to go through this. Sure didn’t help the cause of Christ in your hearts, did it? They probably really thought they meant well and don’t realize what an abuse they committed. Sadly, an awful lot of catholics fall into superstition in areas where we are called to have faith.

This should not be counted as a baptism. They broke confedentiality, as well as canon law.

Try and take it with love. They were doing what they thought was a loving thing and it shouldn’t become a reason to harm the children and it would harm them to keep them away from their grandparents.

Unless your children’s grandparents are actually abusing them then your child have a right to know them and be a part of their lives. You can clearly state boundaries for instruction but you really can’t expect them to show any kind of disdain for their religion because you do.

I have no idea why you and your wife have rejected the faith, but it shouldn’t be a choice you make for your children. They have a right to religion, period. Your problems with our Church are your problems. Don’t make them your children’s problems.

Try and accept the fact that they Baptized your children because they feel something about the Sacraments that you don’t and it was a gift whether or not you believe that. They love your children and your children love them. That is worth preserving no matter what you think about religion.


This has to be taken absolutely seriously. The grandparents are now under an obligation to report the performance of this sacrament to the parish authority in order that it can be investigated and duly recorded in the registry. They may have acted illicitly but it is extremely possible that this was a fully valid sacrament. The fact of this baptism being performed now will be an important factor in the later lives of these children, especially if they do decide to practice the Catholic faith, but even if they do not, they are now considered as members of the Church and this has a specific canonical meaning.

Yes, recording it prevents future issues.

The Eucharist is an important sacrament, Holy Orders is an important sacrament, yet the laity cannot confect these. I think you mean that Baptism is a foundational sacrament, from which all others flow.

I disagree with your assessment of the grandparents. There is nothing superstitious about the very serious imperative to baptize infants. I am not saying what they did was right, but it is far from supersitious.

We are clearly instructed to baptize infants in danger of death even without parental consent-- if baptism did not matter, why would the Church give us such instruction? Nothing superstitious there.

It is not a matter of counting it or not counting it. It’s a fact-- they baptized the kids. Valid baptism is valid baptism. It is an indelible mark on the soul, it can neither be repeated nor undone.

Which has nothing to do with the validity of the baptism.

No, I do not mean foundational, I mean important. CCC1256 states that the reason that all may baptize is that baptism is necessary for salvation.

I probably should have said necessary instead of important. But important seems to convey the idea.

You and your wife may want to make it very clear to Grandma and Grandpa that if they ever take the children to Mass again, they absolutely do not have permission to give the children the Holy Eucharist! :eek:

Necessary yet not sufficient, which is why the quest to ensure that Christian formation will be provided to the child precludes providing baptism without the consent of the parents. The child needs baptism, but not just baptism alone. A Christian also needs guidance and formation to live the life the baptized are obliged to live. We have to have the means to cooperate with the graces baptism provides, because free will is not suspended by our baptism.

By saying that baptism is necessary for salvation, we do not mean that God cannot provide the opportunity for a baptism of desire by ways unknown to us. It is that we do not presume that will be provided, which is why baptisms may be validly done when a person is in danger of death and unable to give consent.

Is that right?

yes, i would agree

This baptism should not be considered valid. The guidelines for laity baptising are very strict, and even more strict for again the parents wishes. These guidelines were not met. Either the children shouldnt be recognised, or should and the grandparents excommunicated

Thank you. When you look at a line of reasoning and either find it sound or else find an issue with it that I had not seen, either way you are a great help.

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